Back to Journal

How to overcome 7 challenges you'll face in the interior architecture and design industry

Interior design to the outside person is a job full of glamour and fun, but the reality can be a little more complicated.

White desk.
How to overcome 7 challenges you'll face in the interior architecture and design industry
Clara Carlino de Paz
October 31, 2022

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
This article was originally posted on Making Space, a Substack penned by our Cofounder, Matteo Grand. Subscribe below to receive more content just like this.

Interior designers, unite for a second and dispel the rumours that have been circulating among the cohort for far too long. Interior design is fun, creative and collaborative… But there is also so much that goes behind a shiny new space or renovated home. And most of it rarely gets spoken about.

At the risk of sounding negative, it is a truth: interior design, with its beautiful perks, also has its downsides and challenges. This is not to say that they cannot be mitigated, in fact, there are plenty of solutions to the interior design industry’s problems. And that’s exactly what we’ll be going through today. 

If you have any solutions you’d like to share, why not email us with your ideas? We’d love to hear from you.

01. Unexpected changes and delays

The bread and butter of all interior design projects: the unexpected becoming the expected. No matter what you try to do, chances are the project progress will not go at your expected pace, and even will result in something different to what you first envisioned. This could be due to suppliers experiencing material or labour delays, or the structure of the house presenting difficulties mid-renovation. All designers have been there, and it feels terribly easy to lose hope and feel overwhelmed.

Solution. Underpromise and overdeliver; with measure. Understanding how unexpected delays can affect your project can help you incorporate that into your timelines. Instead of cutting corners by decreasing the project time to appease a clients’ wants, stay true to the reality of interior design and factor it in. Assume difficulties, and you’ll be way more equipped to deal with them when they emerge.

02. Feeling stuck in your style

After being an interior designer for a while, it is incredibly easy to dwell in a particular style for an extended period of time. Certain elements start feeling like crutches, and all of a sudden you get the feeling that all your designs are looking the same with little personal evolution in between. This can feel disheartening for creative people, because innovation and growth are key elements in most designers’ values.

Solution. There is no easy solution out of this, but to completely recalibrate your own likes and dislikes and rethink what it is you love or are inspired by. Start off by logging off social media for a day: these feeds end up being echo chambers for our previous likes, and disassociating from certain aesthetics can feel impossible. Seek out different forms of inspiration: go to museums, friends’ homes, bookshops, specialised magazines, journals, fashion spaces, galleries… Take photos and inspiration from everywhere. Once you’re done, put in everything you’ve gathered in a moodboard and locate repeated themes. These can be the new pillars you can experiment with.

03. Finding new suppliers to work with

In line with those feelings of stagnation we just spoke about, the same thing can apply to suppliers. Once you start working with some suppliers you trust, it’s incredibly hard to move to others. However, this can negatively affect your designs, as they can start looking too similar and in turn affect your feelings of creativity. And even when you do try to find new trade products, it is so difficult to find what you want, because most suppliers only produce one type of material, furniture type or appliance, and rarely invest in SEO, making them difficult to search. 

Solution. If you want to explore and discover the wonders of British and European high-end design, we have something for you. You can find an ever-expanding list of 83 suppliers with 3500 items on our trade portal, within our product management software. All of these brands have been specifically handpicked by Lori Bolon, co-founder of Portaire, to ensure that everything you buy is steeped in quality and recognised craftsmanship: and at trade price. You can join our waiting list at any time.

04. Meeting your clients’ needs and wants

Clients, especially those employing an interior designer for the first time, can have a hard time expressing their vision. This can quickly turn into misunderstandings and mismatched results. For interior designers, this experience can be truly frustrating and heartbreaking, especially when expectations haven’t been met but the effort was there from the beginning.

Solution. Briefing, briefing, briefing. It is so important to assert from the beginning what the clients’ desires are before doing anything else. Take time to talk to them, show them references, and work hard on making a mood board that makes them truly excited about the project. It is not worth speeding through this process to get to the finish line when all you’ll get will be an extra marathon – while feeling disappointed.

05. Spending hours doing admin instead of designing

They don’t teach this at university. Most of designers’ time is not spent doing mood boards, sketches, renderings and installations. It is spent on emails, worksheets, and stressful phone calls. Designers spend hours filling out schedules and specifications, copying and pasting information numbly until the task is finished, ultimately feeling betrayed by their own dream job.

Solution. With our product management software, you can downsize your administrative tasks and do more of what you love. From product discovery to creating your schedules directly with our Chrome extension product clipper, you’ll never have to type out or copy and paste product information into a schedule again. You can sign up to our waiting list here.

06. Budgets going astray

It is a classic situation: unexpected structural problems come up, the clients’ eyes are bigger than their pockets, contractors are not able to work at the speed they promised. The result? An overextended budget at the end of its life, distressed clients and designers clawing at ways to be creative with their money. 

Solution. So that you don’t have to end up in that situation again, let’s go through our 7 tips to ace your budget (more detailed information on budgets, here).

  1. Don’t skirt around the issue of money at the beginning of the design process
  2. Give your client options on where they feel comfortable spending more or less money
  3. Include a buffer in all estimates
  4. Budget for unforeseen circumstances from the outset
  5. Take your time with your client prioritising expenses
  6. If big issues come up, give different options and budgets for the solutions needed
  7. Reconvene on a regular basis to track project creep

07. Publicising yourself on social media

Most designers didn’t enter the industry to become social media influencers, but nowadays it has become an absolute necessity for interior designers to publicise their own projects on socials as a kind of extra advertising. While word of mouth can get you far, the possibilities of social media are endless and worth considering.

Solution. No one will make you like social media if you don’t, but you can find nice routines to post. Our top tips? Invest in great photography when you can, take pictures and videos of the process and results, create a content calendar with 3-4 posts a week and daily stories if possible, and if you don’t have something new to post, share your inspiration. It’s not too difficult, so why not give it a try?


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to our newsletter. You’ll receive weekly, exclusive interiors content and weekly trend updates.